We talk a lot about content marketing on this blog — from reasons to outsource content marketing to our internal production process to AI copywriting bots and more. Creating content is only half the puzzle, though. The other half — how to measure content marketing performance — informs future decisions and illustrates the measurable success of a content marketing campaign against business goals.
Our focus at Lighting Media Partners reaches beyond writing content — we excel at analyzing key metrics for content marketing to better serve our clients’ goals. For this blog post, we’re here to help decision-makers and business owners understand their content marketing data and pull actionable insights.
In this article, you will learn:
- Why understanding key metrics for content marketing is important.
- How to measure content marketing campaign performance within a framework.
- How to read and understand content marketing-specific data for your business’s benefit.
A note about Google Analytics before we start: In the spring of 2022, Google announced to all Analytics users they would be sunsetting Universal Analytics in July 2023 and Google Analytics 4 (GA4) would take over as the only web analytics platform. As such, this article focuses on metrics found with GA4.
Key metrics for content marketing analysis
You’ve invested time, money, and creative energy into a brilliant content marketing campaign — but is it paying off? To be certain your content marketing efforts are helping you achieve your business goals, you need to identify the concrete metrics that will help you measure your progress toward those objectives.
Below, we’ve identified some of the most common business goals for content marketers and paired them with the key performance indicators (KPIs) most commonly used to evaluate their progress. Tracking these key metrics for content marketing success will reveal areas where your campaign is running smoothly and can help pinpoint areas in need of a tune-up.
While content marketing provides solutions for every stage of the customer journey, it is a particularly effective top-of-the-funnel tactic for generating brand awareness. Because content marketing excels at growing a brand’s online presence and share of voice in the marketplace, companies often craft content with brand awareness in mind.
But how can a brand be certain their content marketing efforts translate into visibility gains? Keeping tabs on the following metrics can help:
- Pageviews. The volume of traffic visiting a particular page on your website offers insights into what kinds of content perform well for your brand. By comparing this number to the traffic generated by other pages, you can begin to understand what topics and formats appeal to the widest audience.
- Unique visitors. The number of unique users on your website during a given period offers the most straightforward measurement of the scope of your audience.
- Brand mentions. How often other sites or online users mention your company by name can serve as a reliable metric for how much “buzz” your brand generates. Social listening tools like Awario and the aptly-named Mention can help monitor this information.
- Followers. How many people are subscribed to your blog? Your newsletter? Your social media pages? Watching these numbers climb is a sure sign that awareness of your brand is growing.
Related article: How To Promote a Blog Post Across Digital Channels
If you’ve invested time into optimizing your content for search engines, SEO metrics can greatly enhance your understanding of overall brand awareness. These metrics demonstrate the share of voice your brand has acquired through organic channels and can offer guidance for fine-tuning your SEO strategy.
- Organic traffic. Unlike pageviews, which aggregate all sources of traffic to a page on your website, organic traffic indicates the number of visitors who found your content through search engines. If this number is low, consider targeting keywords with a higher search volume or conducting an SEO audit to ensure your content is optimized properly.
- Keyword rankings. When a potential customer enters your target keyword into a search engine, where does your content appear on the results page? According to Hubspot, only 25% of searchers click through to the second page of results, so securing a coveted spot in the top ten can radically increase the visibility of your content. A keyword research tool like Moz or Ahrefs can help you monitor your keyword rankings in real time.
- Backlinks. Like brand mentions, the number of links your site acquires from other websites can indicate how often other sites are referring to your company. As you build a profile of high-quality backlinks from unique domains, your organic visibility will also receive a boost because search engines will favor your website as an authoritative resource.
Generating brand awareness allows companies to cast a wider net, but to hook members of your target audience and transform them into loyal customers, you need to reel them in with engaging content. Key engagement metrics can give you a concrete way to evaluate how well the content you create resonates with consumers. These measurements represent your ability to not only capture the attention of your audience but pull them one level deeper into the sales funnel.
- Engagement rate. User engagement measures how long and how often visitors interact with content on your website. To be counted as an engaged session in Google Analytics 4, a user must interact with the website for over ten seconds, view at least two unique pages, or trigger a conversion event.
- Time on page. The amount of time visitors spend exploring your website signals how interesting or engaging they find your content. If your average session duration is fairly low, it may indicate that your current content is not doing enough to capture the attention of your target audience.
- Page/scroll depth. Do your readers lose interest after reading your headlines, or do they devour every last line of your content? By monitoring page depth — that is, how far down the page a user scrolls before exiting out — you can gauge how interesting and readable visitors find your content.
- Likes, shares, and comments. Highly engaging content does more than capture the attention of your target audience — it also inspires them to interact with it directly. When a visitor likes, shares, or comments on your blog or social media post, it also increases the likelihood that your content will be shared with other members of their network, expanding your reach.
Related article: How to Build a Content Calendar
With its ability to help brands’ visibility and organic reach skyrocket, content marketing is often hailed as a top-of-the-funnel marketing tactic. But properly optimized content can also inspire customers to take concrete, profitable actions. In fact, a study conducted by Aberdeen found brands that embraced content marketing saw conversion rates six times higher than those that did not. The lesson? Content marketing pays off.
But how can companies measure the business value of their content marketing efforts? To demonstrate return on investment (ROI), consider monitoring these metrics:
- Leads. When a visitor to your website opts to share their personal contact information by signing up for a newsletter, downloading gated content, or reaching out via contact form, they become a lead for your business. The number of qualified leads generated by your content marketing efforts paints a picture of how effectively your content converts members of your target audience into contacts and — eventually — paying customers.
- Conversion rate. Optimized content drives more and more traffic to your website, but only a fraction of those visitors will ever become loyal customers. Unlike leads, which track the total number of prospects acquired through your content marketing efforts, conversion rates measure the percentage of all visitors who take a designated action after viewing your content. A high conversion rate indicates that you have optimized your content for your target audience and often accompanies an increase in revenue.
- Cost of acquisition. Your content marketing efforts might help you acquire potential clients, but pay attention to how much your company spends to attract these new customers. By dividing the total cost of your marketing campaign by the number of new paying customers it brings in, you can estimate an average customer acquisition cost (CAC). If this value is less than the average revenue you generate from a customer, you have likely landed on a profitable content marketing strategy.
- Total revenue. The most straightforward metric for measuring content marketing ROI is total revenue. A lucrative content marketing strategy will yield more in revenue than your company spent executing it. Marketers often measure this value as a percentage, dividing the net revenue by the total cost to calculate the overall return on investment.
Keep in mind that compared to traditional marketing and advertising tactics, content marketing often takes longer to yield results. The assets that you create as part of your content marketing initiatives will only increase in value over time, so don’t get discouraged if your metrics don’t skyrocket overnight. Focus on creating consistent and engaging content, and eventually the data will reflect your efforts.
How to measure content marketing performance
How to measure content marketing performance boils down to setting goals, understanding how key content marketing metrics relate to those goals, analyzing the insights, and making informed decisions based on findings.
1. Identify goals.
Nearly every content marketing, digital marketing, or SEM-focused agency preaches the same lesson: create a SMART goal to set yourself up for success. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound and is a framework for how to create your business goals. We also believe SMART goals are the best approach when measuring content marketing performance — but add two important steps to the traditional content marketing measurement framework.
Before setting a SMART goal for content marketing campaigns, consider your company’s overall business goals. Is it growth in organic web traffic year-over-year? Is it an increase in product revenue or service sign-ups? Maybe you’re looking to hire 15 people within the year to scale your business. Whatever your overall business goals are, there’s a key content marketing metric to tie them to.
For example, with the goal of increasing web traffic, GA4 gives users a transparent view of metrics. Navigate to Reports > Acquisition > Traffic Acquisition, then drill down to “organic traffic” and set the time frame and comparison period to see your results.
Overall business goals can (and should!) be both short- and long-term goals, as content marketing contributes to both.
2. Set up software tracking.
After identifying the goals of your content marketing, choose the software(s) with which you want to track your progress toward a goal.
GA4 is the best choice for website-based analysis and metrics, including online conversions, user engagement, overall traffic, and more. Google Search Console provides the best tracking for SEO and UX/UI information, including search terms and website performance. Google Ads gives a comprehensive insight into paid ad performance, including assisted conversions, marketplace competitors, landing page quality scores, and more. Finally, hundreds of third-party software will track any metric you can think of, from the number of backlinks, to form downloads, to appointment requests, to average organic search rankings — and so many more.
Before you set up your software…
We could spend days explaining the step-by-step process of setting up each software — but we’ll stick with the basics for what you need to get started and let the software’s guides take it from there.
When setting up a tracking software, you’ll likely need:
- Domain access to the website (or an IT provider who add the code).
- A Google email address (if you’re using Analytics, Ads, or Search Console).
- Payment information (if you’re setting up Google Ads or your chosen third-party platform is a subscription requiring payment to see data).
To set up GA4, read this article from Google. If you currently have a Universal Analytics account and need to move to GA4, Google published a step-by-step guide.
To set up Google Search Console, decide how you’ll use the platform and follow the prompts established by Google Search Console’s Help Center.
To set up Google Ads, follow Google Ads’ helpful starter checklist with real-world examples.
3. Understand the relationship between metrics and KPIs.
Defining how to measure content marketing performance for your business starts with understanding the difference between metrics, KPIs, and business goals. Metrics measure the impact, success, and overall health of a business’s digital presence while KPIs are types of metrics that gauge progress toward a specific business goal. We’ve listed four general examples below.
|Organic traffic sessions.||The number or percentage of organic traffic month over month.||Increase organic traffic by 10% year over year.|
|Conversions.||The number of submitted lead form submissions in a month.||Get five new customer leads this month.|
|Time on page.||Average time on page or the bounce rate percentage.||Keep customers engaged and on the website until they convert.|
|New users.||The number of new users from a specific source or medium.||Evaluate the success of email marketing for brand awareness campaigns.|
Each metric found in an analytics tool can become a KPI for your business and be tied to overall short- or long-term business goals.
4. Pair KPIs with business goals.
Once you gain a better understanding of what the metrics you’re looking at mean, it’s easier to tie them to KPIs to mark progress toward business goals.
When pairing KPIs with business goals, be careful to avoid vanity metrics — like the number of likes on a social post. While vanity metrics may seem like they link well to KPIs, they often fail to provide real business value (like lead form submissions, sales, and engagement).
However, if your business’s goals are largely brand awareness-centric, vanity metrics like impressions, “likes,” and traffic can link well to non-transactional KPIs and business goals.
Related article: How To Use Your Website To Drive High-Quality Leads
5. Plug in the numbers.
Once you set goals and understand how to achieve them through a content marketing measurement framework, visualize your data within your chosen analytics tool.
In GA4, the “Explore” tool enables you to perform ad hoc queries, focus on the most relevant data by using filters and segments, and drill down into the metrics that matter most to you — among many other functions. It gives users a canvas to drag and dop relevant segments, dimensions, and metrics to create custom pulls of information the standard reports don’t offer.
In Google Search Console, under “Performance” on the left side of the dashboard, users can explore an in-depth view of their website from user experience, technical performance, search appearance, and more.
6. Use comparisons.
When measuring content marketing performance, date range comparisons can help visualize data and tell more of a story.
For example, a travel company in April 2020 probably saw an enormous drop in web traffic as compared to the year before. However, after governments lifted COVID travel restrictions in 2021, traffic most likely shot up again. When evaluating the data, a marketer could compare April 2019 to April 2021 to discover if traffic and engagement stayed at pre-pandemic levels or increased.
In addition, comparisons of source- and medium-segmented data can illustrate how different audiences behave based on where they interact with a business.
To turn on comparisons in Google Search Console, navigate to the top left of any report screen and click the “Date:” bubble. In GA4, locate the date range dropdown in the top right. Each platform has standard time ranges and the ability to compare with previous periods, the previous year, or a custom date range.
7. Analyze insights.
With metrics and KPIs visualized, it’s time to distill them into actionable insights.
Using the same table from above, plug in the metrics and KPIs to analyze if the example team succeeded or failed to reach their business goals. For example:
|Organic traffic sessions.|
The number or percentage of organic traffic month over month.
2400 organic sessions (April 2022)
14% increase month over month
Increase organic traffic by 10% year over year.
Monthly success achieved for larger goal. Continue current strategy.
The number of lead form submissions in a month.
1 new form submission in April.
Get five new customer leads this month.
Goal failed. Analyze form drop-offs, percent exit from form page, user path, and other conversion data to discover issues.
|Time on page.|
Average time on the homepage or the bounce rate percentage for the homepage.
30% bounce rate (April 2022)
Keep customers engaged and on the website until they convert.
The bounce rate was lower month over month but only one form was filled out, so users aren’t making it from the homepage for the contact page.
The number of new users from a specific source or medium.
243 new users from email (April 2022)
Evaluate the success of email marketing for brand awareness campaigns.
While the content marketing team for our example had two successes, they also saw two failures: keeping customers engaged on the website past the homepage and driving five form submissions. Based on the data, they’ll need to analyze more metrics around each to have a full understanding of what happened.
8. Make decisions based on findings.
The final step — making decisions based on data — hinges on the goals set in step one. While goals can (and will) change within a campaign timeline or a year, every team member needs to understand the new goal to accurately make short-term decisions in the content marketing strategy to accomplish the larger goal.
For our example above, the content marketing team came up with these changes to their website and content strategy:
- The lead capture page had a high percentage of form abandonments halfway through the contact form. The team decided to cut the form in half to reduce user friction.
- The team knows the homepage performs well when it is consistently updated with new blog content. They also discovered returning consumers have a much lower bounce rate than new customers, so they decide to change the homepage content three times a week with previously-published blog posts.
- To encourage form submissions from blog posts, the team decides to create a button in the blog sidebar that followers the reader as they scroll through the blog post and triggers a pop-up form for more information before they exit the page.
Lightning Media Partners works tirelessly to accomplish your content marketing goals. Book a discovery call with us today to learn how we can help tie your business goals to content marketing.
A huge thanks to Helen Eckhard and Dan Casarella for their additional contributions to this article!